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Close Reading Envelope Assignment

By Kristy Littlehale

Find this Common Core aligned resource and more like it in our Middle School ELA and High School ELA Categories!

One of the struggles students have with reading literature, especially in high school, is close reading. Students often read for details of plot, or to answer simplified study guide questions, but few students take the time to focus on reading for depth, especially with themes or important questions. The Envelope Assignment is a great close reading strategy for helping students stay focused on one or more themes throughout their reading. When paired with Storyboard That, it makes sharing their information more interesting and fun, even though they’re still doing a lot of work!


The Envelope Assignment

The close reading envelope assignment is a great way to get students from all levels to focus on important themes, ideas, and character developments within a novel. Storyboarding the results can help take this strategy to a whole new level!

Teachers should hand out an envelope to each student that is only identified by a number (or create a Google Doc that is only accessible to you and the student). Inside the envelope, there should be index cards and a slip of paper that tells the student what his or her assigned topic is. (The topic can also be placed in a Google Doc and the student can fill in the document as they go along.) This topic will be the student’s responsibility to track and report throughout the course of the chosen novel. The student will write a quote or a summary of where the example of their topic appears, and then an explanation of how the quote or summary relates to the topic.

With Storyboard That, the students can keep track of their findings visually, too. For each topic, have students visually depict a scene of their chosen example from the novel, and underneath, explain how it relates to their topic. Have students report out to the entire class or to their groups once a week using their Storyboard That creations – the class can take notes on the different themes and important questions, and have fun looking at other students’ creativity!

*Teacher Note*

I was introduced to this assignment a few years ago, before all of my students had Chromebooks. Before the Chromebooks, it made sense to give this assignment in individual envelopes and have students report on index cards. Now that my students all have access to Google Drive, I create a special folder with a Google Doc for each student and place their topic inside. Then, that student uses that Google Doc to track their topic, and I can keep an eye on their progress daily. They then use this Google Doc to create their storyboards! Students are far more interested in sharing their work that has illustrations, rather than just using index cards!

Below is a template for students to use and an example of an envelope assignment from A Thousand Splendid Suns.






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Assignment Text for Students

As enjoyable as this novel is to read, it’s also important to become a great close reader. What is close reading, you ask? Close reading is carefully examinating a passage of literature to recognize theme, conflicts, and many other literary elements. For that purpose, and to prepare you for some serious college writing skills:

Each student will be given a Google folder with one close reading topic in it; throughout the novel, copy passages into this folder with a page number and brief reasoning of how it relates to the topic.

In your Google Docs:

Your Google Docs will be checked for homework grades along the way, and your final product will count as a quiz grade.


In your Storyboard That accounts:

All storyboard presentations will be shared with the class, and it will count as a test grade. These topics will be used for various activities over the course of the novel, and you will be utilizing these to write an analytical paper on the novel at the end.


AP and Advanced Learners Option
Have students read through the novel and come up with their own essential question or theme to track along the way.

Common Core Standards



Index Card / Google Doc Rubric



Storyboard Presentation Rubric



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•   (English) Close Reading Envelope Assignment   •   (Español) Asignación de Sobreescritura de Lectura Cercana   •   (Français) Affectation de L'enveloppe de Lecture Rapprochée   •   (Deutsch) Schließen Sie die Hüllkurvenzuweisung   •   (Italiana) Lettura Attenta Busta Assegnazione   •   (Nederlands) Close Reading Envelope Assignment   •   (Português) Atribuição de Envelope de Leitura Próxima   •   (עברית) סגור הקצאת מעטפה קריאה   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) إغلاق القراءة مغلف تعيين   •   (हिन्दी) लिफाफा असाइनमेंट पढ़ना बंद करें   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Заданное Назначение Конверта   •   (Dansk) Luk Reading Konvolut Assignment   •   (Svenska) Närläsning Envelope Assignment   •   (Suomi) Lähiluvun Kirjekuori Tehtävä   •   (Norsk) Nærlesning Konvolutt Assignment   •   (Türkçe) Okuma Zarf Ataması Kapat   •   (Polski) Zamknij Odczytywanie Przydziału Koperty   •   (Româna) Închideți Reading Plic Atribuire   •   (Ceština) Zavřít Reading Obálka Přiřazení   •   (Slovenský) Uzavretie Priradenia Obálky Čítania   •   (Magyar) Zárja Reading Boríték Kiosztása   •   (Hrvatski) Zatvori Zadatak za Čitanje Omotnice   •   (български) Затваряне на Заданието за Четене на Пликове   •   (Lietuvos) Uždarykite Skaitymas Vokas Priskyrimas   •   (Slovenščina) Zapri Branje Envelope Dodelitev   •   (Latvijas) Aizveriet Reading Aploksne Pielietojums   •   (eesti) Sulgege Reading Ümbrik Ülesanne